Saturday, 29 May 2010

Saturday SoapBlog: Michael Cermak - Which religion is better?

In this week's Saturday SoapBlog Michael Cermak ventures into dangerous territory and poses the question, which religion is better?
Michael Cermak is a un-voluntarily retired zoologist, who now is a freelance wildlife photographer and writer. He has resided and worked with animals in North Queensland for twenty-five years. He has published widely in scientific and natural history publications in Australia and overseas, and has produced a series of six books on Australian wildlife.

This is his virgin contribution to CairnsBlog. Please be kind to this self-confessed atheist of Earlville. On his death-bed, he''ll be all dressed up, with no-where to go. May his God bless him.

The resentment to Islam’s proliferation of the western world is gaining momentum in many countries including Australia.
Many folk and the pollies are saying “we are predominantly Christian country” and as such we should be respected. But is Christianity any better than Islam? Or in broader view, is one religion better than the rest … is there such thing as a good religion at all?
The Koran refers to non-Muslims as infidels, an enemy to be destroyed and the Bible reads (amongst other nonsense); those working on the Sabbath should be put to death (Exodus 35:2).
How nice!

Last week I watched on TV millions of Hindus bathing in the Ganges, cleansing their souls in filthy water, dodging the “floaties” (also in their millions) while the Buddhists were dodging wandering cows in the same streets where millions live in famine.

A few months ago I watched a group of Rabbis as they got off the plane at Cairns airport, dressed in their Hassidic “uniforms” in the middle of the summer – what a sight! I am sure these sweaty, hairy penguins came here for a good reason and no doubt their contribution, whatever it may be, will advance Australia’s prosperity.
The Catholics spread their heavenly wings over the uneducated, primitive tribes in many countries around the world with the objective to convert them to Christianity. Those poor souls lost their cultures, traditions, rituals, spiritual beliefs and everything that made them survive for millennia. Many primitive tribes engaged in wars that cost lives, harsh tribal punishment often resulted in deaths and so the do-gooders with the cross on their shoulder stepped in and put the end to the carnage. Apart from introducing far more devastating diseases the tribe people were not immune against, they invariably upset the cycle of life and death and subsequently the population sustainability and balance was interrupted.

With the exception of a few nasty diseases, all human suffering, genocide and oppression were inflicted by determined maniacs who acted in the name of God, Allah or some other fictitious figure. Historically, most wars were fought for religious or racial reasons and when we look at the old scripts, be it the Bible, Koran or any other crafty work of that kind, clearly racism is well entrenched in religion.

So, the Gods are content with all that – they must be! I wonder if they are quietly amused watching the Muslims hitting the carpet with their foreheads in their daily rituals, the Jews rhythmically arching their backs in front of a brick wall, the Christians dropping to their knees, Buddhists burning sticks in front of that fat fella and the Hindu priests walking naked in the streets.

On the serious note, there are creationists amongst us constantly and deliberately trying to erode science and the theory of evolution, there are religious groups and cults preying on people with low self-esteem, taking their money, breaking up families and destroying lives.
And there is Mr Abbott in Canberra.
We don’t have to go too far to see the effects of religious lunacy. There is a deeply religious doctor in Cairns who relentlessly advocates against abortion – it’s worrying to see faith overriding logic and pragmatic decision-making, particularly in such prominent profession.

Isn’t normal life, i.e. without religion, interesting and exciting enough? Why do so many people waste their time, pollute their minds, and indeed pollute the whole world with religious fantasies?

John Lennon sang; “Imagine there's no countries. It isn't hard to do. Nothing to kill or die for. And no religion too. Imagine all the people. Living life in peace...”
I say (wish I could sing); Imagine all the churches would become concert halls and one of the mosques on the outskirts of Cairns would be converted to Johno’s Blues Bar. The world would be better place to live in – that’s my belief.

What gives me the right to criticise and stand against religion?
I have the same right to express my opinion as the Jehovah Witnesses, the Mormons and other morons that knock on my door on Sundays.


Mike K said...

On a depressing note, over in the US there are religious groups and even public schools that have changed John Lennon's "Imagine no religion" to"Imagine one religion" when performing the song.

Going straight to hell said...

Dear Catholic church...

Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can.

I do need some advice from you regarding specific laws and how to follow them:

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odour for the Lord — Lev.1:9. The problem is my neighbours. They claim the odour is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual uncleanliness — Lev.15:19- 24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offence.

Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighbouring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Indonesians, but not Kiwis. Can you clarify? Why can’t I own Kiwis?

I have a neighbour who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 35:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?

A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination — Lev. 11:10 — it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don’t agree. Can you settle this?

Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?

Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?

I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?

My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev. 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing garments made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to stone them? — Lev.24:10-16.

Couldn’t we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev. 20:14)

I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thank you again for reminding us that God’s word is eternal and unchanging.

Your unfaithful servant.

Bill Kilvert said...

I support Michael's right to put forward his views. Afterall religious people have that same right.

It is sad to see that so much energy is spent on something that is only a belief and no-one really knows the answer.

It is sad that religious people think they have a monopoly on righteousness and belive that people living without God cannot be good people.

It is sad to see religious people fight over the ownership of the one God they all believe in, when this one God is the Jewish God.

It is hard to believe that the one God created the Earth four and a quarter million years ago and created the Garden of Eden only just over six thousand years ago.

I think it would make more sense if they believed that "God created Heaven ON Earth. However there is no real proof that any of this happened, so why waist time arguing about it.

I believe that John Lennon's song "Imagine" makes more sense, but there again, it is only a belief.

Bryan Law said...

I’m not offended so much by the criticism of religion as by the gross caricature and misrepresentation of that religion by writers who hide their own beliefs. Michael is not a self-confessed atheist, he is a believer in rationalism and “scientism” who masquerades as an atheist. (I don’t deny the value of either science or rational thinking, but I’m not stupid enough to believe these things fully describe or explain the Universe.)

Does anyone else wonder why these priests of scientism condemn religion based solely on the Old Testament of the Abrahamic religions, and ignore the 2,000 year old revelations of Jesus, along with the 2,500 year old sutras of Buddhism? It’s called picking the easy target (or the straw man). Anglophones who enjoy that sort of thing need go no further than “God’s Song” by Randy Newman, written more than 30 years ago. Where it’s all set to music.

Finally we get the absurd statements such as “With the exception of a few nasty diseases, all human suffering, genocide and oppression were inflicted by determined maniacs who acted in the name of God, Allah or some other fictitious figure. Historically, most wars were fought for religious or racial reasons” Really? I guess that famine, toothache, death, and mental illness are also spread by religion? I think you need a wider view of human history and culture my friend.

Take some responsibility Michael for the failures of Scientism as well. Agriculture is generally recognised as a boon to human civilisation, but its misapplication has been said to be responsible for desertification and massive social dislocation. Likewise the “green revolution” (chemical agriculture) has been held responsible for major changes in soil structure, ecology, and social formation that sees millions or billions starve to death in the midst of plenty. Should I mention the contemporary economic structures that transfer wealth from the poor to the rich? Or wage wars for oil, water and minerals? Were nuclear, chemical and biological weapons created by religious fanatics? Or by scientists just doing their job? Have you kept up with the militarisation of space? Or the militarisation of education for that matter?

I’m a Catholic practitioner of satyagraha, and you’ll find me each week at St Monica’s participating in the arcane rituals of belonging to the body of Christ. I know enough about the history of the Church, and the societies in which it is located, to acknowledge the horrors it has from time to time unleashed or acquiesced in. At various times I would have been burned for my beliefs and actions. At the same time I know that religious error (or malice) is only one part of the human story, and that assaults like yours on straw men merely distract us from the key question which is, as Lenin wrote, “What is to be done?”

This is the negative response to your blather. Part 2 will be “Why I am Christian”.

Going straight to hell said...

Let me ask you a question Bryan .... according to your bible the coming messiah, who you claim was Jesus, was of the line of David, so which of his parents was of the line?

The New Testament, just like the Old Testament, is full of contradictions, which people like you tend to pick and choose your way through.

Your religion has nothing to do with Jesus, it's Roman, put together to save a crumbling empire, let's not forget that one of the Pope's titles is The Holy Roman Emperor.

Your gospels, which contradict each other, were written up to 100 years after the death of Jesus, yet were used by the Romans to tell the story they wanted telling, whilst contemporary gospels, including ones from the brother of Jesus and Mary Magdalene were ignored, because they told the story of the true Jesus, not the one your church made up.

Al said...

Good to hear (Bryan Law) that you are not stupid enough to believe that science or rational thinking can fully describe or explain the Universe, but sadly it seems you are stupid enough to clutch at some ancient hocus-pocus in the absence of an explanation. Your rambling diatribe has added nothing to this debate except allow yourself the indulgence to claim some sort of moral superiority for practising satyagraha down at the temple. Frankly, you would contribute more good to your constituent community by dispensing with your arcane religious rituals and using such time saved in more practical ways (tree planting, helping the elderly, cleaning kennels at YAPS ... ). You can still engage in your non-violent resistance (there will always be someone trying to push you around), though please resist the delusion that you are some sort of Gandhi, it detracts from that great mans reputation.
As for your threatened Part 2; Why I am a Christian: the gall of you. Haven't we who have seen the light (as opposed to you who have seen a god) suffered enough of your self-righteous ear-bashing?

Bob Beamon said...

"Michael is not a self-confessed atheist, he is a believer in rationalism and “scientism” who masquerades as an atheist."

Strange thinking Bryan. I didn't know that atheism and rationalism were mutually exclusive. They're bedfellows with a common dislike of the unexplained supernatural.

"(I don’t deny the value of either science or rational thinking, but I’m not stupid enough to believe these things fully describe or explain the Universe.)"

But, sadly, it seems that you are silly enough to believe in mythic beings (fairies at the foot of the garden if you like) to fill in the gaps in ever evolving scientific knowledge founded on tested hypotheses.

As part of a discussion on religion, failures of science, which you allude to, have nothing to do with belief in the afterlife, or the resurrection, or the virgin birth, or adhering to the precepts of a nice man (Jesus) who loves you so much that if you don't follow him you'll end up after death in a fiery furnace!

Bryan Law said...

You're not going to hell, my friend... you're already there. Ever drowning in the swamp of materialism, dependent on the drug of "facts" to be found in some book instead of through lived experience in the miraculous and wonderful life surrounding us all the time.

What a narrow, unfulfilling, dismal and squalid life you must lead. No wonder you want to project your bullshit onto me, but I'm sorry, i don't want it.

Michael Cermak said...

Brian, I am well aware of the negative side of "scientism" but why should I take responsibility for it?

Also, I am not criticizing human civilization, I criticize the blind believers. If they gave up wasting time with faith and addressed the very real issues you mentioned in you post.

Toothache, death, and mental illness is something that your God created and science is awakening trying to fix.

Go and practice your ritual each week but don't knock on door on Sunday or you'll get the garden hose at full blast. It's called "awakening".

Why I’m Christian! said...

Why I’m Christian!

Those among you who go spare at the mention of faith would maintain better health and blood pressure by reading no further. Take two tablets instead and lean on the crutch of your prejudices.

Every day I sit out on my front deck and gaze out on the miracle of the natural world, in my case a patch of Melaleuca forest in the cairns Central Swamp (or is it Wetlands these days). For me, every part and element of that swamp is filled with the spirit of (...)(let’s call it Doorknob), as are the people walking, cycling and driving by, the houses, rocks, soil and gardens of the roads, houses and people who live in them. The sky above, the sun, planets and stars. All are luminous with the potential and power of life.

Since the tribal days of our ancestors, Doorknob was spoken about as the fearful primal being, superimposed with human qualities, and red in tooth and claw as befitted our understanding of and role in the natural world. Pretty ugly really.

Jesus was said to be the miraculous off-spring of Doorknob, sent to Earth to redefine our understanding of Doorknob as the central manifestation of life, in a festival of love. Doorknob is not so fearsome after all, but a being of fatherly love, occasionally stern, but only as a manifestation of tough love (as distinct from mere sentimentality).

Jesus gave us one commandment – “love one another as I have loved you” and be willing to suffer in manifesting that love, as distinct from walloping others. This is the path of redemption and enlightenment.

The mystical element of Christianity is that Jesus died for us (while putting empire in its place) and was resurrected by Doorknob as a sign that even death could be defeated by belief in, and practice of, love. Empowered by the spirit of Doorknob the church has become the body of Christ, through which the reality of heaven can be implemented here on earth (the social justice agenda).

When Margaret and I did our work in reconciliation, the churches and Christians were keen and available. The secular left expressed an opinion from the comfort of their middle-class homes. Check out the Anglican church and Wild Rivers today.

When we do our peace work today, Christians are active and taking risks. The secular left expresses an occasional opinion after unloading their groceries from the SUV. Shoalwater Bay.

Christians and others of faith seem to me willing to explore new ideas and pay the price. People like Michael just chatter at us about what we should believe, and bitch endlessly about anything they don’t like. I’m amazed they can find the time.

Grona said...

Oh my god, Bryan is mad after all. Stay on the (relatively) solid ground of secular invective old soldier. Wild Rivers, US warships, whatever. When you become all spiritual and start using pseudonyms we know that the pixies have landed. Is it a case of impending mortality that has led to the sudden bout of madness old fella?

Leuco Gaster said...

By crikey, Michael, you've really stirred the possum!

I'm an athiest too, but frankly I agree with a lot of what Bryan says. Its ridiculous to blame religion for war and other problems. Wars are always fought over economic issues, religion at most is used as a justification.

The efficacy or functionality of any religion is not dependent upon the truth or falsehood of the supernatural claims made by its adherents. Religion is our most fundamental form of social organization.

It's interesting to look at the origins of religion - the concept of one all-powerful original creator has emerged with the evolution of settled, agricultural societies - that is, about 10 thousand years ago.

For the prior 200 thousand or so years we were all hunter/gatherers, and animists, believing simply that all creatures are persons, agents who act in the world according to their abilities and tendencies.

This concept, often called the theory of mind, is based on the understanding that as I have a mind, an internal experience, so must other individuals, and that they are also persons and agents in the world. All of our understandings about the world and our relationships with the world and the other beings in it, stem from this fundamental truth.

We all have to have a notion of how the world works, a mental model of the world, and it should be no surprise that when we reach the limits of our current knowledge, we invent explanations that are consistent with what we know and believe.

It blows me away to think that the hunter/gatherer viewpoint, so derided by monotheists, is much closer to the reality.

Sorry to get all philosophical on you! What do you reckon?

Going straight to hell said...

"What a narrow, unfulfilling, dismal and squalid life you must lead. No wonder you want to project your bullshit onto me, but I'm sorry, i don't want it."

And you call yourself a christian? That crap is typical of you, you don't have a true christian bone in your body, and attack everyone who has the audacity to disagree with you, you're not righteous, you're self-righteous, there's a big difference.

Oh, and I have a wonderful life thank you, full of wonder and joy, completely unencumbered by fairies, angels and angry,jealous, vindictive gods.

Bryan Law said...

Ya gotta luv these atheists! They know so much about the God and Christianity they don't believe in.

Michael cermak said "Toothache, death, and mental illness is something that your God created and science is awakening trying to fix". Errr Michael, you don't believe in God, and how can "science" be "awakening" unless you ascribe to it some animistic qualities?

Hell Boy said "And you call yourself a christian? That crap is typical of you, you don't have a true christian bone in your body". Nice to know you're an expert on something you don't believe.

Am I mad, Grona? Probably. how about you? What's your name again?

Leuco, old buddy, a useful contribution I don't have much trouble with at all. The thing is to recognise the limits to our knowledge while continuing to experiment with truth, and throw ourselves whole-heartedly into this miracle of life.

chris forsberg said...

Chris Forsberg Pontificated:-

Thank 'God', whatever you perceive
Him/Her/It to be, that we live in
a SECULAR country - incidentally NOT a "Christian country" as some
folks would like you to believe...

Every religion is the true religion, to those believers who
hold it, as a matter of faith, to
be true.....

For those who have no faith, take
heart in our nation's constitution,
which enshrines 'freedom of religion', which is also 'freedom
FROM religion' if you're so inclined.

There is a measure of merit in each
of the blogged-on comments above -
to misquote a line from the Catholic liturgy, each contributor
is "proclaiming the mysteries of
faith". Even athiest Michael,
who's Saturday Soap Box was concise
- and courageous.

Equally, I liked Bil Kilvert's line: "God created a heaven ON
earth" - there's a body of evidence
(our scenic tropical location)
that supports this view, even if
it's just the view from your patio.

For those of us who lack faith, or have yet to acquire faith, the
mysteries will remain mysteries -
but may be that's what the mysteries are MEANT to be - mysteries.

One earthly mystery to myself is
why does Bryan Law attract such
strident criticism from certain
contributors ? Mr. Law does indeed undertake a lot of un-paid
community service work - and his
observation that science does not
and can not fully explain the
universe is demonstrably correct.

To 'snip' another line from the
liturgy, 'today is the day the
Lord has given'. Just who or what
'the Lord' is may well be open to
question - but it is a beautiful
North Queensland autumn Sunday
and we are free to enjoy it in
anyway we choose.....

That alone is worthy of a prayer
of thanks - regardless of to whom
or what you offer that prayer.

May your god go with you, whatever
you perceive Him/Her/It to be...

chris forsberg

Going straight to hell said...

"Ya gotta luv these atheists! They know so much about the God and Christianity they don't believe in."

Does claiming to be a christian mean you know more about the religion than someone who claims to be an atheist?

I studied theology for many years, and know quite a bit about christianity, probably a lot more than you.

There isn't really much to study, is there? One "book", a few scrolls, and the history of the catholic church.

One clear message shines through, christianity really has very little to do with Jesus, it just hijacked his name.

When I was younger it was called the Roman Catholic Church, at some stage the 'Roman' was quietly dropped, but it doesn't alter the fact that christianity is a Roman invention, designed from top to bottom as a means of subjugating the mind and body.

It's a constant source of amusement to me when someone claims to be christian, then has no idea of what that actually means, or what exactly they believe.

I asked you a simple question before Bryan, which of Jesus' parents was of the line of David?

That point is fundamental to the question of the messiah prophesied in the Old Testament, if Jesus wasn't the one, as Jews claim, then the whole legitimacy of christianity is called into question.

I won't hold my breath waiting for an answer, insults are more up your street.

Bryan Law said...

Hey Hell Boy, I don't care much about the Old Testament, and your stuff about "Romans" reminds me more of Syd Walker's material about Joooos than it does any reasonable discussion of faith, belief, or worship.

You sound very bitter to me.

What's your real name?

Going straight to hell said...

"Hey Hell Boy, I don't care much about the Old Testament"

Or know much about the New Testament apparently.

"What's your real name?"

Why, do you want to harass me?